In the Collect for today, we hear: “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, to resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that . . . they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.”
Advent is upon us; we desire to be worthy of the heavenly Kingdom. We desire to practice righteous deeds. We wish to run towards our Christ, yet the “anxieties of daily life” cause our “hearts to become drowsy.”
Luke today: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth” (34-36).
We are all called to choose a path—and there are only two—one towards the way of the world (and all its anxieties) or the other towards the way of Christ. Temptations are presented constantly, usually in disguise. What if we recognized the true nature of temptations? What if we could unmask them and see them for what they truly are: a persecution. Yes, a persecution from the other side: the side that wants destruction and downfall. Instead of thinking of persecution as an act of something or someone upon us, we ought to hear the Lord calling us to act upon it.
The seven deadly sins (gluttony, lust, envy, anger, greed, sloth, and pride) lurk around every corner in our lives, in varying degrees and disguises—indeed, causing drowsiness. If we cannot recognize them, soon they become a lifestyle. This lifestyle dulls our conscience, leads us astray, and deafens the call to virtue and the virtuous life.
These past few months, I have been lost in my mind . . . thinking about this thing, then that thing, and on and on and on. Soon arrive, in droves, the anxious worried thoughts, or the sad depressing thoughts. In short, I am enveloped in a tiredness that creeps in like a fog, chills me, and clouds most of my thoughts: I am in a drowsy state.
Just how do I choose that path towards Christ?
I must recognize the temptation to withdraw from life, to be “lost in my mind” for what it is: a persecution. A bit clever of a disguise: look at the world today with so many opportunities for fear, worry, or preoccupations. Lost in my mind? How about found by Christ? How about, he has already won the war. He is my all in all. He is my end.
Persecutions for Christians have been a path towards redemption and holiness. It is a war out there! And in “there.” Today, this first Sunday in Advent, we are being given hope and a promise: the Lord of Justice comes. He has made known to us his path, he teaches us, and guides us in truth. He splashes us awake with the promises of our new baptism drawing us out of the mid sleep we coddle ourselves in. We must, and we can “conduct ourselves to please God.” Let us grow in “the friendship of the Lord.” Let us not be “lost in our minds,” but walk the path towards our childlike King. Let us be thankful, always thankful, for the chance to act upon whatever the disguised temptation presents in our life. We can grow in virtue and strength through our actions: we stay awake; we are alert.
This Thanksgiving-Advent, I turn squarely towards my family and take courage from the gift and beauty of love placed in my path. How wonderfully natural and holy to turn towards my children and grandchildren: to bask in their innocence, excitement, joy, and eagerness.
As a favorite nursery rhyme reminds me: “One foot up, one foot down; all the way to London-town.” To keep moving, attentive, one foot up to the call of the Lord of Justice, one foot down to the action of the call.